FreeDrafto, Pt. 3: How Soon Is Now?

To some extent, every NBA Draft has influenced the following one, but the trends have become more pronounced in recent years, with the League attempting to figure out what to do with foreign and high school players, neither of whom played much of a factor as recently as a decade ago. The epochal 2001 Draft led many scouts around the league to go back to their teams with their tails between their legs and led many fans to believe their heads were up their asses. None of the high schoolers picked in the Lottery have even sniffed an All-Star Game, while Pau Gasol went on to win ROY and lead a Grizzly resurgence of a sort (we’re talking about the Grizz here), and Vladimir Radmanovic has proved to be a valuable player in Seattle. Thinking they had learned their lesson (that foreign players are more ready than American high schoolers), the 2002 Draft saw the great minds of the NBA selecting Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Nene Hilario several spots ahead of man-child Amare Stoudemire.

With the issue of foreigners vs. high schoolers still unresolved, 2003 saw the drafting of our hero Darko Milicic sandwiched between American hoops prodigies Lebron and Carmelo. But last year, NBA execs seemed to have things pretty well figured out. The early lottery saw a good mix of proven college stars and talented high schoolers, with the first Euro, Andris Biedren, going at #11 to team of the future Golden State. The jury is still out on Biedren, but they’re busy deliberating about high schoolers Robert Swift and Dorrell Wright, as well.

If there is any lesson to be learned from the 2004 Draft, it is taught to us by the electrifying Smith Bros. (no relation), Josh and J.R., who went back to back at #17 and #18, respectively. Both swingmen, neither one fit the mold of other wings who had made the jump straight from high school. Kobe and T-Mac were both highly skilled athletes with relatively polished all around games. By contrast, Josh came in with only one definable skill (jumping really fucking high), and J.R. added to that uncanny 3-point range, but neither showed any ball-handling or mid-range skills to speak of.

If there was any precedent for the Smiths, it was not Kobe or T-Mac, but the 23rd pick of the 2000 NBA Draft, Deshawn Stevenson, who boasts a career scoring average of 6.7 ppg. On paper, the Smiths seemed to share his raw athletic ability and low basketball IQ, a package that rightfully did not seem too appealing to most NBA scouts, and they accordingly fell out of the Lottery. But, both Smiths excelled in their rookie years, averaging around 10 points a game and contributing numerous highlight-reel dunks, blocks, and 3-pointers. Indeed, just perusing a collection of still photos of Josh Smith in action is enough to cause one’s jaw to drop. Together, they caused NBA execs to forget about the Deshawn Stevensons and Harold Minors of the past and seemingly proved that incredible athleticism really can be enough to make it in the League.

So, what does this mean for 2005? Is there a Smith in this year’s Draft, or are the Smiths yet another Draft myth to be debunked? Gerald Green seems to fit the mold the closest. He combines Josh’s length and ups with J.R.'s ability to wet jumpers from deep. But, he lacks the all-around skills of Kobe or T-Mac, making “the next T-Mac” comparison preposterous, although the fact that both were largely unheralded during their early high school years does make it tempting. However, the player who will likely benefit the most from the success of the Smiths is 2007’s Bill “Dirty McNasty” Walker, teammate of O.J. Mayo and the most talked-about high school dunker since Vince Carter. Watch your head.


At 6/24/2005 2:30 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

both of them also look like men, while green is more in the t-mac/kobe high school vein of "put some meat on that!!" granted it's more frontcourt player that that's an issue with (they're often skinny in hs, and need to be not so in the pros, which is why we call college the second puberty of the basketball life), but you heard that same shit about livingston last year and he seemed to have no problem. telfair too, but he's all speed.

and the only thing i'm going to say about that game last night: great teams don't only make things difficult for other great teams, they rise above adversity and find a way to still look good and play confidently in the face of someone like the pistons putting the screws to them (and vice-versa). five minutes doesn't count for that, and this is why the finals horrified me and i can't respect this year's champions. that one game was pretty hot, but other than that the bulls/wizards showdown had more face-saving capacity than this one.

duncan did not deserve that mvp. but i always find him endearing when he talks.

At 6/24/2005 3:13 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

I think this year's draft should be called "The Rich Get Richer" draft. Some of the crappy teams will get pieces (the point guards, the high schoolers, a big man here or there), but there are no Duncans or Shaqs or Iversons in this draft. Just Brad Millers and Caron Butlers and Andre Millers. The ONE exception to me is Marvin Williams who just seems to "get it", whatever that means. He's humble, smart, has all the skills and just always seems to be around the ball. I think he could become a star within a few years.

Meanwhile, teams like the Spurs and Pacers and Heat are projected to get guys like Villanueva or Luther Head or Rashad McCants. They may not get those players, but the point is that this draft is so deep that those teams will get almost as good pieces as the shitty teams.

I pray that this will be "The Year of the Draft Day Trades" and I think there will be a couple. But when I read Chad Ford's piece about all the potential trades it makes me salivate. Until I realize that everyone is trying to trade for the same spot (either 2, 3, or 4). So in reality, there probably will not be many trades. I feel for the Bobcats though...they got screwed.

At 6/24/2005 3:20 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

Who do you think deserved the MVP? It obviously had to be Duncan. Duncan is their best player and everythng they do, even if he has a shittyish game is because of him. I also think that he was still suffering the lingering impact of the bad ankles, he didn't have the explosion he had in the last championship run at any point during the playoffs. Of course, it's possible he's getting old and has lost a step, but if that's so it just showed he still possesses the HEART OF A CHAMPION!

And no, that series wasn't the best, but I think people are being too hard on San Antonio here. I think pulling this one out was much more impressive than beating the nets in six in 03, and much better than sweeping the knicks in 4 in 99. Yes, it was ragged and difficult, but that's how it should be against a team of collosusses. Good game, good series, good playoffs, good year. Long live the Western conference.

At 6/24/2005 3:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

you're right, they kind of had to give it to duncan. by default. though manu would've gotten it if he had had another one or two brilliant, galvanic games.

and abotu the two colossesesus thing: that's exactly why they should've been able to put together a quality series. very good teams confound each other, great ones continually rise to the challenge, overcome adversity, and show their true colors. forcing an adjustment on the other teams part, and the cycle begins again. . .like every few seconds, so the thing is watchable. not in longwave form over the course of 48 minutes.

but maybe this is unrealistic.

and yes, this was certainly the best Finals in a while. I suppose I would rather watch an ugly, but competitive Finals, than use the opportunity to just see more of Kobe or whoever running wild. at least i have a responsiblity to watch this that i can feel good about justifying.

At 6/24/2005 3:39 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i don't know that duncan does have the heart of a champion. he's got the skills of a champion and just enough pride that he could overcome his injuries enough to dominate for the one quarter when his team needed him most. he deserved the finals mvp as much as nash deserved his mvp: by default.

At 6/24/2005 3:44 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

note: the recluse and i said "duncan by default" at the same exact same moment.

manu, now that's the heart of a champion.

"i have so much joy inside of me that i need another body to feel it!"

the ladies loved that one!

At 6/24/2005 3:51 PM, Blogger elandfried said...

Say what you will about Duncan, but somehow the man gets it done. He's won three championships where he was the best player on the team (even in '99). These last two have actually been that much more impressive. A couple years ago he won with an aging Robinson and two talented, but unproven foreign guards. This year one could claim that only Ginobili is an above-average player at his position (after this series I am just not a Parker fan - he really shat the bed in Game 7 and couldn't guard anyone). Yes, they have terrific role players, but you could claim that the Pistons had 6 of the top 9 players in this series (maybe even 6 of 8 if it weren't for Horry being such a freak in the playoffs). Duncan was the difference and he came through when they needed him most.

And to all the haters: You try playing against Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, and Antonio McDyess with TWO sprained ankles and let me know how you fare. Get your heads out of your cynical asses people.

At 6/24/2005 3:53 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

I always liked Duncan, but I became an avowed fan of his in '03, when he dropped, I believe 36-40 points on the Lakers in the close out game. Just a fantastic performance. He never reached those heights in these playoffs, but you can't retrospectively take away the guys clutch cache after having one mediocre series, with sprained ankles, against a team with the best interior defense since the McHale-Parrish Celtics. And lets not pretend that San Antonio is some supertalented, deep team. After Duncan and Ginobili there's nobody the Pistons would give more than twenty minutes a game on that team. They're well coached, fit together, and hustle, but they do start both Bruce Bowen and Nazr Mohammed, not exactly offensive powerhouses. And let's be honest here, the next time Parker steps up in a big game will be the first. Given all these factors, you have to assume that Duncan must be doing something right. Also, I think a lot of his struggles had to do with the fact that they weren't using him as he should have been used, as the star. Hakeem in 94-95 never went five, eight, ten possesions without getting a touch in the low post. The Spurs were a big reason Duncan never got going. When they finally woke up and started going to him every time down court he showed why he's the best player in the league, still. Making baskets and drawing double teams for open threes. It was a thing of beauty, and whether you blame the rest of the team for not going to him enough, or blame him for not making them go to him, they woke up when it mattered, and that win belonged completely and totally to him. Give the man his due!

At 6/24/2005 3:55 PM, Blogger elandfried said...


At 6/24/2005 3:57 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

This is getting bizarre, back to back simultaneous posts saying exactly the same thing from two different factions, pro-duncan; Elandried-Shoefly.
Blah Duncan; Shoals/ Recluse. Who shall break the deadnaught?

At 6/24/2005 4:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

high likelihood that the recluse is typing this same thing right now, but a man's got to say his peace:

i have never, ever questioned duncan's abilities or preeminence in the game. i agree with shoefly that it's partly the spurs' fault that he doesn't get going sometimes; contrast that with their last title run, when the offense pretty much ran through him.

i decided last season that he was the GOFOAT and have never doubted that highly charged personal decision for an instant.

but i do think that if they hadn't won, the world would at least have to acknowledge his mortality (aren't free throws fundamental?). he's not perfect; poor FT'ing may be the tragic flaw of big men everywhere, even some of the greatest, but remember when Shaq said "I make them when I have to?"

and while i agree with shoefly that his destroying of the lakers was one for the ages, shouldn't he have been able to call upon those same resevoirs of earth to put away game 5 or 6? the great ones are supposed to be able to rise to the occasion. if you 're a non-factor early on, bring it at the end when others falter (like last night). anyone can do the opposite of that.

giving duncan the mvp was like giving the qb the superbowl mvp.

i realize i'm flying off the handle, so i'll leave it with a reasonable thought: wallace, wallace and mcdyess might be the toughest defense any single player has ever had to face in the playoffs. the blazers and pistons both put their wallace more or less one-on-one with shaq, so to have deal with both of them, plus dice, either in tandem or even one at a time. . .

At 6/24/2005 4:44 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

i agree that duncan is the GPFOAT, but he didn't show that killer instinct/heart of a champion that the truly great players have. it's really splitting hairs here, we're arguing about whether he's top 10 all-time or merely top 25.

he could have put himself in the argument for top 10 with this series, but he didn't. that's all i'm saying. and i do think he was a lot more beat up than he let on. great player, can't take anything away from him, but i wanted a little bit more.

At 6/24/2005 5:07 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

See, I disagree with both of you here, and again it goes back to the 2003 playoffs. In my opinion, a superstar doesn't have to come up huge every single time, it's impossible. As long as you've done it a couple times in your career, and thereby won championships, you earn your place. You're not going to have a dynamite series every time, unless you're Michael Jordan, and even he had two game mini slumps in certain series.. There is something to be said about overcoming when you're not on your A game, and Duncan did that. And whether or not he couldn't close out in game five or six, all that matters was he that he was there in game seven to bring it home. It's like this, it's hard to question a proven champs bona fides after they lose in the finals, let alone after they win it! I think you are asking a little too much here. Greatness strikes where it pleases, and Duncan has nothing to apologize for.

At 6/24/2005 5:08 PM, Blogger shoefly said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 6/24/2005 5:56 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

rationally, i know you're right, but it just seems like that's a standard you CAN hold duncan do since his reputation is staked on unobtrusive dependability. it's like, if he's not doing that, what makes him so great anyway? heart? magical playmaking? leader? momentum-building outbursts? grabbing the other team's heart out of their chest? duncan is consistency, utility, effectiveness, and all those other things that basketball purists bandy about. and nowhere should those be more at issue than in the playoffs. it's akin to a 20ppg scorer being held to single digits in game 7. plausaible, but makes you wonder.

At 6/26/2005 12:52 AM, Blogger elandfried said...

Anyone up for a field trip to Oaktown?


At 6/26/2005 12:55 AM, Blogger elandfried said...

And, just cause I feel like it, ladies and gentlemen, your 2005-2006 playoff teams (in order of finish):

East: Indiana, Miami, Detroit, New Jersey, Washington, Chicago, Philly, Cleveland

West: SA, Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Utah, GS, Clippers (OK, I know the Sonics will be in over the Clippers, but a man can dream...)


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